On Tuesdays and continuing through harvest season, The News-Gazette’s Dave Hinton will spotlight a Farm Family of the Week. Email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up: The Brandenburg family farm in Piatt County. “Diversified” might be a good description of the farm operation. Kind of like decades ago when farmers didn’t put all their eggs in one basket by growing only corn and soybeans, the Brandenburg farm also has livestock, operates a truck repair business and grows commercial alfalfa.
How long has your family been farming?
We have been farming in Piatt County since 1864. It started with Samuel Brandenburg from Clark County, Ky. I (Samuel E.) have had the pleasure of farming with my dad, Samuel W., for the last 12 years. As a sixth-generation farmer, I am happy to keep the operation running.
Where is your farm operation?
We farm between Cerro Gordo and Monticello.
What does your farming operation consist of? For example, is it strictly a grain operation, or do you also have livestock?
Our farming operation consists of commercial corn and soybeans, commercial alfalfa and a cow/calf beef operation. I started the commercial alfalfa operation in 2012. Thanks to my partnership with Steve Catlin, our cow/calf beef operation is still successful. Just recently we have opened up Farnsworth Truck Repair and Paint at our main farmstead in Milmine.
How many people in the family does the operation support?
Our operation supports a variety of people such as the multiple family dairies we supply alfalfa to, our hired hands that keep the farm in full operation, our two mechanics/painters that operate the truck repair shop and local people that buy our freezer beef. Our farming also supports my parents, Sam and Rosie Brandenburg from Milmine, and my family, which includes my wife, Kimberly, and my three boys, Collin, Caden and Cohen.
Do you have any members of the family in the farm operation also working other jobs?
My wife, Kimberly, is a special education teacher at Monticello schools. She is finishing her 11th year of teaching.
How have you seen farming change over the years?
Obviously farming has had many changes over the years just like everything else, but the biggest impact has been technology. In 2007, my dad got his first basic auto-steer tractor, which was a huge deal at the time. On our farm in 2021, auto-steer is a standard feature on every piece of farm machinery. Our tractors now have the capability of planting an entire field with minimal assistance, which is a huge improvement from open-cab tractors that my dad started with. When you tell people you are making hay, they normally think of riding a hot rack wagon and bucking bales. With the improvement in technology, we are able to run a self-propelled hay mower, a large square baler with auto-steer, and our stack wagon which picks up and stacks all of our bales.
Your farm equipment: Green (John Deere), Red (Case IH) or other?
My family has always operated Case IH equipment, but due to the advancements in technology, we have a variety of equipment brands. We have Fendt tractors, Massey Ferguson hay equipment and Case IH planting and harvesting equipment.
What makes farming such a good vocation?
Farming is a good vocation because at the end of the day we are providers. We are providers to our animals, our families and our consumers. There is just no better feeling than starting off with a bare field of dirt and turning it into thousands of bushels of quality grains or tons of feed that can feed thousands of people or thousands of animals while keeping the economic structure of our country healthy and strong.
If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?
I would love to change the fact that there are less and less farmers every year. We are a declining population due to many factors. My hope is that I can provide an empire that my boys can take advantage of to further grow the operation and explore future endeavors.
What’s the best time of year to be on the farm?
I would say the best time of the year to farm is in the fall. I enjoy seeing the fruits of our hard labor. The summer hay operation would be a close second because of the fast-paced summers baling hay.